By noon Election Day, voter turnout in Charlotte and Sarasota counties well exceeded 70%.
But the vast majority of those votes were cast beforehand, either through early voting or vote-by-mail ballots. In both counties, most precincts saw minimal to no lines Tuesday morning, making in-person Election Day voting a quick process.
Gary Donaldson said he chose to vote early in North Port on Election Day, because he thought the afternoon and evening would bring longer lines.
“The biggest issue is the virus — we don’t need more testing, we need a cure,” he said. “Trump should have been on top of it when it first started.”
“I just hate voting all the time. All they do is lie, lie, lie. They say one thing, then two months later, it’s another thing,” Donaldson said.
James Godshall was a voter who said he pretty much stays loyal to his party.
“There’s too many people out there not willing to participate in a good way. They want to make their opinions known in a bad way: looting, fighting. There’s too much negativity,” he said.
Members of the Democratic Club of North Port were present at a precinct location.
Club president Belynda Norton said when people yell, they don’t engage, they just tell everyone “thank you for voting.”
“We have our own opinions, but don’t think we need to scream it at people,” she said.
An indoor and outdoor poll watcher was present at the voting site.
Conni Brunni, a member of the Republican Party, said this is undoubtedly the most important election of her life.
‘We’re voting for the soul of the country,” she said. “Do you want freedom or socialism?”
Voters mum on President
Voters Tuesday at three Charlotte County polling places and the Historic Courthouse in Punta Gorda were willing to share their opinions — as long as the talk stayed with local issues. But there were some notable exceptions.
A scant few were willing to reveal whether they voted for Trump or Biden, but when asked whether they were for or against the proposed 1% Local Options Sales Tax extension, nearly all were happy to share the way they voted after exiting the polls. Nearly as many also were willing to share how they voted on Florida Amendment 2 which would support the initiative to increase the state’s minimum wage incrementally until it reached $15 per hour in September 2026.
At some polling places, voting was relatively light as many had already cast their votes prior to election day, while other polling places saw a steady stream of voters throughout the morning and early afternoon.
Voting was very light at the Punta Gorda Isles Civic Association, according to poll worker Arthur Lee: “It’s been quiet,” he said. Along with fellow poll worker, Earl Lebon, by 10 a.m. some 70 or more voters had come through the door. Lee said poll workers are deputized by the sheriff’s office.
Christina Mohaupt came out of the PGICA building teary-eyed, explaining that her grandfather had just passed away. She admitted that she couldn’t remember how she had voted. In the background were the blaring of horns. A row of Trump supporters sat along Shreve Street waving flags, and some drivers responded by honking their horns. “I don’t see how flag-waving makes a difference; most people already voted,” said a poll worker named Ron who had just dropped off lunch for his wife, who was also a poll worker.
At the Isles Yacht Club, Aurora Estepa had just exited the building. She said she voted for the 1% tax extension, as “it helps the infrastructure.”
Slow but steady at the polls
Jeff Foster was the poll worker at the Isles Yacht Club. He, like the other poll workers, took the forehead temperature of every voter before allowing them in. He said that voter traffic at his site was steady. Upon opening there was a 45-minute wait, “but since then it’s been a steady flow.” By late morning nearly 200 had shown up to vote.
Foster said he had worked for three days at the Historic Courthouse in Punta Gorda during early voting, and on the first day “there were 1,200 people.” By the 12th day, he said, some 800 people showed up to vote. Overall, “there were 14 straight days of very intense voting,” he said, adding, “This is an entirely different voting year.”
Regina and Joseph Chickino then exited the building and said they were not for the minimum wage increase, but they did vote for President Trump.
Foster said there were no problems at his polling site and that things were running smoothly.
What do voters care about?
Deborah Fisher was another Trump supporter and she said that she voted no on the 1% tax extension because “I don’t want to pay anymore.” She said that she also opposed the minimum wage increase because “I think it would make small businesses go downhill.”
At the Historic Courthouse in downtown Punta Gorda, voters could only drop off their paper ballots in the drop box, as it was not a polling place Tuesday. Mike Parton said he was not in favor of the $15 minimum wage increase because he thought “it would hurt businesses,” and he was in favor of the 1% extension which he said “was a good idea.”
Sarai Sapp, a pre-K teacher, said that the 1% extension “was great for the community.” She said that she supported the tax as it would be better for her two daughters’ futures. She said she also supported the $15 minimum wage amendment.
Mid-County Library had a row of Biden and Trump supporters at the entrance, waving flags, and from time to time large trucks with Trump banners would circle the parking lot blaring horns, and then leave. An armed security guard sat outside the entrance, and commented that even his presence didn’t seem to dissuade the truck drivers who apparently were attempting to make a statement.
Steve Torres exited the building and he was eager to talk with us. He skipped right to the presidential race, saying, “I don’t want Trump as President; I never liked the man. He hasn’t changed since the early ‘80s.” Torres said that he was 52 years old and that he was voting because he didn’t want Trump to get reelected.
Laura Sherman came to vote and brought her daughter Kaiden along. Sherman said that she supported the 1% extension, but she was reluctant, like many voters, to reveal her presidential pick.
One man, who wished to not give his name, said he voted for the 1% extension, but that the minimum wage amendment would have a “negative impact.” He said that he voted for Sheriff Prummell. He also voted for Joe Biden, “because of Biden’s healthcare plan for families and everything.”
When asking voters about money-related issues, most had an opinion they were willing to share. But it became personal for many voters when they were asked which candidates they supported. The majority declined to answer, especially when it came to the presidential race.